Back in the 1980s, Cleveland's restaurant scene was, let's just say, short on pizzazz and sophistication. Then came Zack Bruell. The godfather of fusion cuisine in these parts, Bruell gave us meat and potatoes, but in a new-fangled way.
Since those early days, he's introduced one winner after another. And, lately, he's on a hot streak. When Bruell opened Table 45 inside the Intercontinental Hotel & Conference Center in Midtown in 2007, Esquire magazine dubbed it "one of the most strikingly modern in America." Two years later, he made the "Best New Restaurants" list again with L'Albatros, a brasserie-style gem in University Circle.
Bruell also operates Parallax (Asian inspired) in Tremont, Chinato (Italian) on East 4th Street, Cowell & Hubbard (French) and Dynomite Burgers in PlayhouseSquare. And, he recently opened a casual, self-serve restaurant called Kafeteria off Public Square.
A Cleveland native and multi-year James Beard award semi-finalist, Bruell originally planned to pursue a finance degree and work in his father's hardware store. But lousy food at the university cafeteria changed his course.
He learned classic French cooking techniques at The Restaurant School in Philadelphia, instead, and immersed himself in the emerging California nouvelle trend under famed chef Michael McCarty in Santa Monica.
While Bruell's restaurants vary widely, from French to Italian to burgers, common threads connect the menus. Bruell is known for tweaking classics to local tastes and using ingredients people wouldn't typically cook at home.
So when the menu offers a beet and beef cheek salad, go for it. Sounds kind of weird. Tastes kind of magical.